Yesterday I heard the news that Emmett Forrest had died.
I didn’t know Mr. Forrest all that well. I first met him, in a manner of speaking, during a telephone call a couple of years before I came to Mount Airy. At the time I was writing a couple of pieces on Mount Airy and Mayberry Days for a magazine published in Eastern North Carolina, and I chatted with Mr. Forrest about his Andy Griffith collection and the importance of the Mayberry connection to Mount Airy’s tourism trade.
I was struck at the time by how friendly he was, offering however much time I wanted to help me with the story, even suggesting a few other folks I could speak with to make the story stronger.
Since coming to The Mount Airy News nearly five years ago, I had a couple of occasions to speak to him by phone or in person. I want to emphasize again I really didn’t know him, and I don’t want to come across as trying to act as if I did, but he always seemed to me to be one of the friendliest, most helpful persons I’ve met.
I think he epitomized the general values of this area — hard work, honestly, and looking at ways to help others. I also believe, from all I’ve heard and learned, that he was a man who valued friendship, who was trustworthy and loyal, who would always be there for his friends.
I think it speaks volumes about him and his character that Andy Griffith, who we all know went on to international fame and fortune, maintained close ties with Mr. Forrest. Griffith, by all accounts, did not easily make intimate, life-long friends. While that could be said for many of us, I think with Griffith that was doubly so, and could probably be said of anyone in his position.
The reality is once a person reaches that level of fame and financial success, there are all sorts of people want to be his so-called friend solely to get what he or she can get from the relationship.
Griffith understood that and chose his friends carefully. That Forrest was among his closest confidants, again, speaks volumes about him.
Forrest was also a quiet, behind-the-scenes supporter of Mount Airy and its tourism efforts and of the Surry Arts Council, and a driving force behind the development of The Andy Griffith Museum.
His fingerprints will remain on the community, privately among those who knew him, and publicly through so many things he did for the city, and I think we are all better off for his influence on Mount Airy.